Intervention of Mons. Berhaneyesus Demerew SOURAPHIEL, President of the Council of
the Ethiopian Church, President of the Episcopal Conference (Ethiopia and Eritrea)
Ethiopia has about 80 million inhabitants, half of whom will be approximately below
the age of 25. The great challenge which the country faces is poverty and its consequences,
such as, unemployment. Many of the youth, aspiring to escape poverty, attempt, by
any means, to emigrate. Those who emigrate to the Middle East are mostly young women
who go legally or illegally to seek employment as domestic workers because most of
them lack professional training. In order, to facilitate their travels, the Christians
change their Christian names into Muslim names, and dress as Muslims so that their
visas could be processed easily. This way, Christians are indirectly forced to deny
their Christian roots and heritage. According to the data from the Ministry of
Labour and Socia1 Affairs and the International Organization of Migration, 13,498
Ethiopian workers migrated to the Middle East between September 2005 and August 2006.
(www. American Chronicle/Ethiopia Human Trafficking Hub in the Horn of Africa.html).
Their destinations are usually Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Khuwait, Yemen and Saudi
Arabia. On average, about 12,500 Ethiopians leave annually to the Middle East. Even
if there are exceptions where workers are treated well and with kindness, the great
majority suffer exploitations and abuses. Many are ashamed to return back to Ethiopia
where their families expect them to return with lots of money; however, some are forced
to return back desperate, sick, and mentally disturbed. The Christians who die in
Saudi Arabia seem not to be allowed to be buried there; their bodies are flown to
Ethiopia for burial. Could the Saudi authorities be requested to allocate a cemetery
for Christians in Saudi Arabia? Many Ethiopians turn to the Catholic Churches of
the Middle East for assistance and counselling. I will like to thank the Catholic
Hierarchies in the Middle East who are doing their best to assist the victims of abuse
and exploitation. We are grateful, for example, for the great work of Caritas Lebanon.
Modem migration is looked upon as "modern slavery". But let us remember that today's
migrants shall be tomorrow's citizens and leaders either in their host countries or
in their home countries.